THE WATCHER To 23 April.


by Jeremy Paul.

Waterloo East Theatre Brad Street SE1 12-23 April 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 4pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7928 0060.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 April.

Uncaptivating mystery.
A young woman suns herself in the park. Across the lake, some distance away, apparently a fisherman is fishing. A nerdish young man comes along and sits down. He has classic intrusive manners, seeming polite but stepping across the lines of acceptable behaviour in sudden, uninvited actions. She tries being guarded, or facing up to him with an implied challenge (it is daytime, after all, and there is a fisherman across the lake).

Behind the situation that’s been created is, naturally, another reality. Which emerges as the scene’s replayed with variations. All of which sets up expectations that are hardly fulfilled in Jeremy Paul’s play. The reality revealed at the end is by then long-expected, while games-playing switches of reality have been handled more expertly by others.

Nor can the piece get by as a psychological stand-off. Certainly not in a production where the pace is too relaxed, missing the kind of detail in the pair’s interaction which might give rise to more tension.

Many in the audience are likely to have realised what’s going on some time before the final situation’s laid bare. And if they’ve watched one in ten of the crime dramas popular on TV, they’ll most likely have moved far ahead, discounting the final catch as one more red herring in the plot-trail.

So when the plot terminates several stations before its expected destination the impact’s underwhelming, while neither character moves beyond the simple functionality of a plot-driven piece.

Such interest as there is focuses on Sarah Manners’ character. With hints of vulnerability and provocation, her purpose at least holds some interest for the first act. After the interval, the performance has nowhere much to go.

Given the eventual identity of Jon Shaw’s character, his two-dimensional behaviour at the start, and the similarity of manner between what he seems and who he is, could be meant to show the character is a stilted actor. But it severely limits interest in anything done to, or by, him. Someone evidently believes in this play enough to revive it, but it’s hard to recommend anyone to become a watcher.

Cast: Sarah Manners, Jon Shaw.

Director: Roger Martin.
Lighting: Tom Curtis.
Sound: Nick Russell-Paver.

2011-04-11 11:26:19

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